An absorbing and inspiring remembrance.

BOTH SIDES

THE CLASSROOM FROM WHERE I STAND

A high school teacher reflects on challenges she’s faced as a student and an educator in this debut memoir.

Potter’s book begins with a Kentucky high school principal putting the author and all the other teachers on buses to visit poverty-stricken sections of their district, where many of their students reside. The roads are so bumpy that one of Potter’s colleagues throws up on the bus. As they drive past run-down trailers and dilapidated shacks, an administrator tells the passengers, “Don’t forget that when you get mad about them not having a pencil.” It’s a lesson that Potter, who taught high school English for more than 17 years, learned well. In a series of essays that move forward and backward in time, the author gracefully explores the ways in which good teachers help students navigate lives full of poverty, drugs, violence, unintended pregnancy, and death. Fortunately for Potter’s students, she remembers her own struggles on their side of the desk. Her father had to quit high school to get a job, her grandfather couldn’t read, and she dealt with her own obsessive-compulsive disorder. Her writings show that she knows what it’s like to face tall odds during one’s teen years; every minor failure feels like the end of the world. Potter also effectively pays tribute to the teachers who helped her at pivotal times in her life as a student and new teacher, but the biggest tribute to their legacy is her own remarkable career. Throughout the book, she admirably relates how she’s gone the extra mile for students by giving them a pat on the back, for example, or attending a funeral. Although she honestly recognizes times when she’s come up short and shies away from trumpeting her victories, it’s hard to come away from this collection without a sense of awe for the herculean efforts of teachers like her.

An absorbing and inspiring remembrance.

Pub Date: June 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-71681-845-5

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Lulu.com

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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